The Locust Valley High School Class of 2021 graduated on June 19 in a ceremony that celebrated their hard work, dedication and resilience. Together with their friends and families, the seniors listened to multiple speakers offer advice for the future, praise for their achievements and reflections on the unusual end to their 13-year journey.
Despite restrictions placed upon schools due to the pandemic, the guidelines were recently updated to allow outdoor graduations with no limitations on the number of attendees, enabling the Class of 2021 to be celebrated by all of their loved ones. The bleachers were packed with cheering onlookers as the students walked across the stage to accept their diplomas and make the transition from students to Locust Valley High School alumni.
The Class of 2021 leaves their mark on the Falcon community through academic, athletic and altruistic achievements. The senior class includes winners in national competitions such as the National Merit Scholarship Program, Coca-Cola Scholars Program and many county and state recognitions. The students earned more than $76,000 in combined scholarships during the senior awards ceremony in May.
“Our students – individually and as team members – reached peak levels of success and were recognized for quality of character,” said Locust Valley High School Principal Patrick DiClemente.
Mr. DiClemente reflected on the actions of the senior class. “Your voice this year and through high school has been impressive,” he said. “You’ve demonstrated strength, unity and repeated interests in standing for ideals. With compassion and intellect, undoubtedly you will assist others and improve the world.”
Salutatorian Zophie Lemaitre addressed her peers with an important message. “As we look to begin building our futures, we must remember a lesson we learned at the very beginning of our journey here: the golden rule,” she said. “‘Be a bucket filler,’ ‘walk a day in someone else’s shoes,’ ‘treat others the way you want to be treated,’ our primary school teachers said. And while these phrases are most commonly uttered to 5-year-olds in our district, they are some of the most valuable lessons one can learn, and I find that repeating them today, while slightly cheesy, is of the utmost necessity.
“As we look to apply the golden rule to our everyday lives,” she added, “we can see how it fits into so many more of our values. Because of a willingness to see the world from another person’s perspective, we learn to respect those around us.”
Valedictorian Emily Barosin, in her address to the Class of 2021, said, “I believe that the memories we have of other’s acts of kindness towards us are the ones that persist when we feel challenged. They allow us to believe in the goodness of the world. Which is why, as some parting advice, I would like to encourage everyone here today, to become a leader in empathy.”
She explained the meaning of her statement by saying, “As we move forward and take the next steps towards our destinies, we will find it is necessary to balance the obligations we have to ourselves and the obligations we have to those around us. It will be important to work hard, find our passions and forge a path towards our personal successes. However, it will be more important to ensure that we are doing so with grace, humility and with never-ending compassion for those around us. As we make our dash towards success and fulfillment, whatever that may mean for you, we must stop along the way, hold the hand of the person next to us and help them take a step forward, too.”
Class of 2021 President Emerson Banos Ronquillo told the Class of 2021 that he knows they are all afraid of change and encouraged them to embrace it. “Life isn’t just a straight line. It’s filled with many twists and turns that can signify and affect someone’s life,” he said. “It’s going to be hard; we are all going to struggle with the next step in our lives, but how we grow from that experience will make us look back at how far we have come.”
Superintendent of Schools Kenneth E. Graham, Ed.D., also spoke of the importance of being prepared to change. “No matter who you are and no matter what you do you will encounter a world where change is the absolute one constant,” he said. Dr. Graham spoke of the positive changes that this class has made on the community through food drives, clothing drives, support for veterans and so much more.
“The actions of every one of our graduates have made and will continue to make a big impact on the world around us,” he said. “I know that this class will remain committed to make positive changes here in Locust Valley and anywhere in the world that they are.”
He added, “The second component of change in your life will be your ability to adapt to change and make adjustments along the way. Doing this will put you in a position for a happier and more fulfilling life.”
Board of Education President Brian T. Nolan recalled how he felt as he graduated from Locust Valley High School in 1998, remembering important ideals he has carried with him since that day. “I’d like to offer you a few key tenets that you can carry with you as well,” he said. “Always be kind, never give up, always have an insatiable curiosity, stay true to yourself and know that a good sense of humor can fix most problems. Most importantly, support your community and society as a whole by looking for those opportunities where you can make this world a better place.”
Mr. DiClemente spoke of the many paths the students will take following high school, ranging from college and trade school to joining the work force or military. Seniors Benjamin Silver and Matthew Warner were recognized for their commitment to serve our country.
As the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony came to an end and the Class of 2021 walked off the football field, a drizzle of rain began to fall, perhaps symbolic of the tears falling from the eyes of students and parents as the joy, sadness and apprehension of the future set in.
Thank you to the parents, teachers, administrators and community organizations that offered support to the Class of 2021, ensuring their success and preparing them for a bright future.
Congratulations to all of the graduates on this most important milestone. Good luck in your future endeavors, and don’t be a stranger to our schools, After all, once a Falcon, always a Falcon.